Wray Castle is a Victorian neo-gothic building at Claife in the English county of Cumbria. The house and grounds have belonged to the National Trust since 1929, but the house has only recently opened to the public on a regular basis. The grounds, which include part of the shoreline of Windermere, are open all year round and are renowned for their selection of specimen trees - Wellingtonia, redwood, Ginkgo biloba, weeping lime and varieties of beech.
The house was built in 1840 for a retired Liverpudlian surgeon, James Dawson, who built it along with the neighboring Wray Church using his wife's fortune. After Dawson's death in 1875 the estate was inherited by his nephew, Edward Preston Rawnsley. In 1877 Edward's cousin, Hardwicke Rawnsley, took up the appointment of vicar of Wray Church. To protect the countryside from damaging development, Hardwicke Rawnsley, building on an idea propounded by Ruskin, conceived of a National Trust that could buy and preserve places of natural beauty and historic interest for the nation.
The house has an association with another key player in the National Trust, Beatrix Potter, who summered there when she was 16 in 1882. She bought nearby Hill Top in 1905 with royalties from her first few books. She bought considerable tracts of land in the area, including most of the land surrounding Wray Castle, though she never owned the castle itself. In 1929 Wray Castle and 64 acres (260,000 m2) of land were given to the National Trust by Sir Noton and Lady Barclay. Since the National Trust acquired the castle it has been used for a variety of purposes, including a youth hostel, the offices of the Freshwater Biological Association, and a training college for Merchant Navy radio officers (RMS Wray Castle). In 2011 the National Trust proposed to lease the property, which is denuded of its furnishings, for use as a hotel, but decided to open it to the public during the visitor season. High visitor numbers mean that the property, which is particularly child-friendly, is likely to remain open.
A ship, the Wray Castle, was named for the site. It was one of five large vessels built at the Williamson shipyard at Workington for the Lancaster Shipowners Company, the others were Greystoke Castle, Lancaster Castle, Lowther Castle and Pendragon Castle. The Wray Castle was the fourth, an iron four-master launched in March 1889.
- For information on opening times and dates see the National Trust website
- Townley Macan, Thomas (1970). Biological studies of the English lakes. Longman. p. 22.
- "The Freshwater Biological Association at Wray Castle: Recollections of its first director". Freshwater Forum 1 (1): 24–28. 1991. ISSN 0961-4664. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
- Sharp, Paul; Hatt, E.M. (1965). Follies. Taplinger Publishing. p. 105.
- Last peek at Wray Castle before it's a hotel, Westmorland Gazette